What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution and why should you care?

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution and why should you care?

In order to understand the challenges that face the workforce of tomorrow it is useful to look at the major changes that have taken place over the last two and a half centuries through the lens of the four industrial revolutions. It is important to note that there is generally significant overlap between these revolutions and although they are listed separately the one usually bleeds into the next as the stage is set for further advancement.

The First Industrial Revolution

From 1760 to 1830 Great Britain saw major changes in its economy. The advent of mechanisation replaced agriculture with industry as the backbone of the societal economy.

Driven heavily by the need for more power to fuel industry, coal extraction soared and eventually lead to the invention of the steam engine and railroads.

It was not long before the rest of Europe’s economies followed suit and the First Industrial Revolution was well on its way.

The Second Industrial Revolution

Considered by some to be the most important, the Second Industrial Revolution began between 1820 and 1870 and emerged on the other side of the Atlantic. This period saw the textile and agricultural industries mechanised in the USA. New forms of energy emerged with the discovery of electricity, gas, and oil which spurred industry to new heights.

This led to the rise of the internal combustion engine and inventions like automobiles and planes, which significantly enhanced the logistical capabilities of economies. Furthermore, with the advent of the telegraph and telephone, communication across long distances became more effective and efficient.

The Third Industrial Revolution

It took another century to pass before the Third Industrial Revolution started, this time with discovery of nuclear energy which was considered at the time to be the panacea for all forms of power. This revolution brought forth the rise of electronics as well as telecommunications, computers and of course the rise of digital information. Other advances in research and biotech lead to major advancements in medicines.

The discovery of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Robots lead to a high-level of automation during this time. For the first time in history the amount of labour a human engaged in was not necessarily directly related to his or her output since machines could work 24/7.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The here and now. The dawn of the internet sparked the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s birth. Decentralisation of information as well as a massive surge in the amounts of available data meant that we could collaborate on complex activities while being on opposite sides of the planet.

The advent of the microprocessor and significant enhancements in computing speed and storage mechanisms allowed us to leverage information like never before. Furthermore, the development of cloud computing meant that information was always on, and always accessible. Machine learning and narrow AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been able to harness the readily accessible information that cloud computing and faster internet speed provides and computers and robots are now able to perform extremely complex tasks with minimal interaction from humans if any.

Devices have become “smarter” since they are now able to share data with one another. Commonly called the Internet of Things, your TV, fridge and computer are now inextricably linked to one another in a new era of automation and information sharing. This of course is only the start; other emerging technologies like 3D printing, Virtual Reality and new and more efficient forms of energy and materials could mean that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is the most disruptive one to the workforce yet. Only time will tell, however those who can engage in complex problem solving, coordinate with others, manage people and engage in creative critical thinking will be the backbone of the workforce of tomorrow.

Why should you care?

The challenge that our children face in the workforce of tomorrow is that knowledge in of itself will be fairly useless. A quick Google search will get you that knowledge.

The differentiating factor will be their ability to apply the knowledge, collaborate with teammates (other humans), apply creative critical thinking skills and solve complex problems. The harsh reality is that as Automation and Machine learning take more prominence in our economies and labour markets, menial, repetitive work will become more and more obsolete.

Skills 4.0 courses are specifically geared towards providing children with the skills necessary to thrive in environments like these.

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